Tuesday, September 30, 2014

An Impromptu Visit to China

While Saint Louis may not have an ocean to dive into or mountains to climb...family friendly activities abound.  Last Sunday we had no plans for the day, but with a little Googling, Steve had found a wonderful activity for Natalie and I to enjoy together. Not only was it free but it was located walking distance from our home.  Webster University hosted a 10th anniversary celebration of the Confucius Institute.  The university was among the first to have an Institute.  Today there are 90 across the United States -- more than 400 Confucius Institutes throughout the world.  The purpose of these non-profit institutes is to promote Chinese language and culture and facilitate cultural exchanges.

What a treat! 

The performance was held in the auditorium of Webster's Community Music School.  The 13 act show performed by students from Beijing Normal University featured a medley of traditional Chinese artistic expression including; dance, martial arts, music, calligraphy and opera.

If you missed the performance, but are interested in learning more -- Webster University is hosting a series of events during the month of October beginning with an exhibit featuring traditional Chinese art. The exhibit opens on Sunday, October 5th from 3:00 - 4:30 p.m. at The Old Orchard Gallery at 39B South Old Orchard, Webster Groves.  Artists will be present at the opening and a limited quantity of signed photo books will be available.  Light refreshments will be served.  Admission is FREE.  The art exhibit will run 12 p.m. - 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, October 6th through October 22nd.

The opening number combined dance with martial arts.  The piece was called Flying Dragon
The pipa (pronounced pea-pa) is the most popular Chinese instrument.
A four string instrument and one of the oldest with more than 2,000 years of history.
Song of Xiang He
This one was one of our favorites.  They sang and danced on, around and over the drums.
"I don't know what they were saying, but it was pretty," shared Natalie
We got a taste of Beijing Opera called Guifei Zuijiu. 
While we weren't fans of the songs, we did love his dramatic make-up and flamboyant ensemble.

Male Group Dance: Story of my Hometown
Group Chinese Instrument Ensemble
This piece was called Fascinating Dunhuang
The Propitious Tree
The Dream of Nanna.
A dance that tells the story of a girl who lives in the mountains, but longs for another life elsewhere.
The Euphrates Poplar
This piece celebrated the 56 ethnic groups that make up China.

Natalie - with all of the performers.
She was tickled to find two cakes on the Webster U. campus

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Family Time Travelers

Last Sunday we traveled back in time to celebrate Pioneer Days at the Daniel Boone Home & Heritage Center (DBHHC) located in historic Defiance, Missouri. Boone's Home overlooks a village made up of more than a dozen 19th century buildings. Each structure has been moved to the site from within 50 miles of the area. Buildings include a general store, school house, chapel, woodworking shop and grist mill and offer a glimpse into life on the Missouri frontier.

The DBHHC is owned and operated by Lindenwood University. According to their website, their mission is to provide a center for fully integrated learning on all education levels; to preserve and protect the historic structures, collections, and natural resources that comprise the facility; and to interpret the early American frontier experience in Missouri as exemplified by the Boone family and their contemporaries.

The kids had a ball dipping candles, throwing tomahawks and learning about games kids their age would have played back in the day.  They marveled at all the craftsmen skills required to create comforts we take for granted  -- like spinning wool for clothing, carving wood for every day furniture and cooking food for hours in fire-pitted ovens.  Natalie learned from one of the carpenters where the phrase "good night sleep tight" originated.  Back then beds were constructed of a web of ropes that had to be tightened regularly to keep from sagging.

As we meandered through the village, drinking in the sunshine, we sort of lost track of time and I was surprised to learn three hours had passed without a gripe from the peanut gallery.  It was a great day to unplug from electronics and connect with each other.

Daniel Boone stl250 cake!

"This is gonna take awhile, I think."
Noah does the tomahawk two-step
Natalie and Steve listen as the women spin yarn and tales about their lives on the frontier.

Inside the Peace Chapel

Time for School!
The kids sampled the sweet leaves of a stevia plant.
Natalie was happy to try her hand at sewing.

Taking a break to enjoy the sunshine.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Deep Thoughts From Noah #50

"Mom, I was just thinking...without girls, there would be no hot people."
(Dear God: Please send help.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Mealtime Madness


I've pureed, chopped, diced and skewered countless vegetables and fruits in hopes that Noah would not turn up his nose.

I've paired them with condiments.  Read about our debacle with ranch dressing here or my ideas for how George Lucas could help my cause by expanding his merchandising into sauces and seasonings here.

I've tried dressing up their names to make them more appealing...green beans were really just green french fries.

There was even a period of time when I regularly transformed the kids' plates into comical characters made from a medley of foods with carrot eyebrows, grape smiles, and red pepper noses.  Initially, my surprise tactics worked somewhat.  Noah allowed the items on his plate without protest, but very little of my efforts actually ever made it past his gums.

 After awhile I gave up the fight and decided I could live with him only eating a couple choice fruits and no vegetables.

Then, Natalie brought home a book from the library called "Grandpa's Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs Cookbook" by Judi Barrett.  As she perused the book she got excited when she came upon a recipe featuring meatballs shaped like cubes.

"Mom! I bet Noah would eat these because they are like Minecraft," shared Natalie.

Hmmm...what if I transformed an entire meal that represented his love for all that is cubed.  Natalie was super excited too and got right to work creating signage.  She's all about the presentation.  Go figure.

All in all the meal was a success...Noah tried and liked "slimeballs"...a.k.a green grapes. And, Natalie my meatless wonder, enjoyed not one, but three beef cubes.

Monday, September 8, 2014


As much as I try to be a process person...I'm just not. I can't help but love results. I need them...to feel centered and "on track". It's so hard for me to enjoy the right now without leaping into a time table for completing a task or project. Whether it's a favored activity like drawing, baking or party planning or one that sucks the life out of me like kids' homework, laundry and dirty dishes - it doesn't matter.
Without even trying I set challenges and goals for myself.  Because time is important.  There are only so many hours in the day. This is probably why I enjoy baking so much.  Follow the recipe and you'll be rewarded for your efforts. In a previous life I worked in  marketing for a franchise called Benjamin Franklin - The Punctual Plumber.  Let's just say -- I fit right in. Then along comes Noah. My firstborn. The one who made me a Mommy. TIME MEANS NOTHING TO HIM. Actually, that's not completely true.  He gets the concept of "five minutes"...

*  We're leaving for school in five minutes.
*  Dinner will be ready in five minutes.
*  In five minutes, you need to get into the shower.

Raising a child with special needs has challenged me to honor the process. When Noah was a toddler, a mother raising her autistic teenage boy, shared that our journey would not be a sprint race... rather, a marathon. I did not like her words...but over the years I've learned to embrace them.

A few weeks ago our family participated in Action for Autism - STL 6th Annual Family Fun Walk.  Thanks to generous family and friends, our team brought in nearly $700 to fund camps, therapies and education for area children and their families affected by autism. 

Normally, the walk involves lots of cajoling and begging on our part to get Noah to complete it. However, this year we heard ZERO complaints from our freckled-face funny man.  In fact, when he finished the race, he turned to Steve and said, "Thanks for taking me, Dad."

It has certainly been a process...but dang! I love the results.

Natalie spreads her smile and wings at the event.
Noah and Natalie stand at Noah's foot marker.
Ninja Noah
We made it!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Labor Day Delivers

While early reports predicted a soggy Labor Day weekend, Mother Nature decided to give St. Louisans a break...at least until after the kids were put to bed Monday night.  About 11 p.m. she treated us all to a free light and sound show, but I'm not complaining because we had a wonderful weekend.

We didn't have plans to get out of town.  Our social calendar was not filled. We simply did our best to enjoy a weekend completely free of labor and worries. On Saturday we took advantage of the mid-70 temps to enjoy a romp at Queeny Park.  The next day we met up with some of our favorite people, the Brauns, who treated us to a day at DesPeres Lodge.  That day, my friend, Barb and I often split up to keep better watch as our six cuties were never all in the same place at the same time.  The kids coasted down the lazy river, rode waves in the indoor wave pool and blasted down various water slides. It was truly a whine free day. In fact, it could be said that everyone got along just swimmingly.

Labor Day Monday we lay like broccoli until I decided we all needed to get out to enjoy the sunshine.  I challenged Steve to take us some place new where we could walk and the kids could find creepy crawly things.  He delivered by taking us to Russell E. Emmenegger Park a.k.a. Emmy Park located in Kirkwood. We spent the afternoon skipping rocks along the Meramec, walking trails and watching the kids catch toads, daddy long legs and other creatures.  The kids worked up an appetite and Natalie tossed out the word "donut".  Steve and I just looked at each other and shrugged.  "Why not?" So, at 3 o'clock in the afternoon we rounded out our day with a trip to Krispy Kreme. Since it had been years since we last set foot in one - everything was new for the kids.  They marveled at the conveyor belt and ooh'ed and ahh'd over the selection of treats.  That evening when I tucked Natalie into bed she shared that she wished she could rewind the day.  Her response served as another reminder for me --my kids don't need a lot...they just need their parents to be present in their lives. 

Dear God: Thank you for showing me the beauty of relishing the present.

She just needs to learn to relax more.
Noah and Carter share a double tube on the lazy river.
DesPeres Lodge Cake

Catching toads at Emmy Park
Mussel Man
A toad it is.
Getting Schooled in Rock Skipping.
Natalie finds another friend.
"Look! A cave!" said Noah
"I'm gonna call him Todd."
D O N U T S!